A new development in Euro law can have far-reaching consequences for the entirety of the cyberspace. A lawsuit against GS Media, the owners of GeenStijl.nl, a big Netherlands news site, was filled by Sanoma Media, the owners of the Netherlands version of Playboy magazine. The results were pretty dramatic – linking to websites with pirated content is now illegal in the EU. The trial started in 2011.
Playboy vs. GeenStijl
The news site GeenStijl ran an article about the TV celebrity Britt Dekker. The piece linked to a pirated copy of a Playboy photoshoot featuring Dekker. Playboy demanded the link be removed, but to no avail. After that, they contacted the pirate site, which removed the photoshoot. However, GreenStijl continued to link to the pirated photoshoot by switching the invalid connection with a hyperlink to a hosting service containing the illegally uploaded photos.
Playboy then filled a lawsuit against GreenStijl and on September 8th, the European Court decided that the links were illegal.
Details About the Decision
The linking of copyrighted material that was uploaded without the consent of the right holder will be considered illegal from now on. At first glance the decision is good, piracy is wrong and should be combated. However, the decision will likely affect other types of content.
Now that copyright holders have the right to take down links that were put online without their permissions, they can probably abuse the right and demand the removal of links that are relevant to the article/material in question. It’s a limitation of Internet rights, no doubt about it.
Internet Piracy Is a Tricky Issue
The law won’t do much to prevent Internet piracy, but it’ll stop sites like GreenStijl from making money out of other people’s content. Piracy is a slippery slope regarding legality. After all, sharing a legally obtained copy with someone will always be OK, however, if there’s a computer involved in the sharing process, it becomes illegal. Piracy is wrong, but it’s banning is quite hard to achieve without hurting Internet freedom. No matter how many laws get passed against it, it’ll always be something that’s present on the Internet. After all, laws can be broken. Just because piracy is illegal, doesn’t mean that the law can be enforced.
Piracy and Malware
The new law can be beneficial for the prevention of the downloading of malware and other types of malicious software, at least on a very artificial level. People who don’t pirate content and just browse the news are less likely to stumble into a site with pirated content. These sites are often filled with malicious content and malvertising. Since most torrent trackers are free, the owners must make money by advertising or even outright virus spreading.